India: Hundreds of people leave temple town as land subsides

LUCKY, India –

Authorities in an Indian Himalayan town halted construction activities and began relocating hundreds of people to temporary shelters after a temple collapsed and more than 600 homes were left untouched. cracks caused by land subsidence, officials said Saturday.

Residents of the town of Joshimath in Uttarakhand state said they started noticing cracks in their homes, especially after the 2021 floods in the area. No injuries were reported in the temple collapse late Friday and people living nearby had left the area a day earlier.

Himanshu Khurana, a district official, said more than 60 families have been moved to government relief camps. Newspapers reported that this number could be as high as 600 families.

Television images also showed cracks in the road, hindering the movement of vehicles.

Ranjit Sinha, the state’s top disaster management official, said the direct cause of the cracks “appears to be a faulty drainage system, which has resulted in water seeping underneath the houses and causing them to collapse. sunk”.

The government will pay 4,000 rupees ($50) a month for six months to homeless people in Joshimath, a temple town of about 25,000 people that sits at 1,890 meters (6,200 feet) and falls to people important Hindu pilgrimage as well as climbing circuits, Khurana said.

Tens of thousands of devotees head to Badrinath and Him Kund Sahib, important Hindu and Sikh pilgrimage sites, via Joshimath, 490 kilometers northeast of New Delhi. The huge influx of pilgrims and tourists has seen the town expand exponentially over the years with the massive construction of buildings and roads, which some experts say is related. to land subsidence.

Temporarily halted construction activities include the all-weather road Chardham, a federal government flagship business that connects various Hindu pilgrimage sites, a vehicle set-up project rope push to carry pilgrims and tourists in nearby Auli, and hydroelectric stations.

The region has seen a devastating cloud outburst — a brief torrential downpour — that resulted in the deaths of hundreds of people in 2013 as well as severe flooding in 2021. Experts say glaciers are shrinking rapidly, partly due to climate change, which is also another reason the region is affected by repeated natural disasters.

Kavita Upadhyay said: “From 2015 to mid-2021, at least 7,750 cases of extreme rain and haze were recorded in Uttarakhand. Such cases are detrimental to Joshimath as they can increase the number of cases. affected buildings, ultimately exacerbating the vulnerability of local people,” said Kavita Upadhyay. , a water policy expert who is currently a research associate on the Riverfront Rights project of Oslo Metropolitan University.

Upadhyay, who is from Uttarakhand and lives in the area, said unabated large-scale infrastructure projects as well as an uncontrolled influx of tourists also contributed to land subsidence.

“Joshimath’s slopes are formed from landslide debris. This means that the town can be burdened by buildings or disturbed by activities such as construction of infrastructure projects. as big as dams and roads.”

A study by the Uttarakhand State Disaster Management Authority has warned that construction by removing rocks and blowing up hillsides will lead to severe environmental damage.

Last May, Meera Rawat, a resident, was startled while cooking in the kitchen when she heard the sound of running water on the floor.

“That day, I realized something bad was about to happen in our town of Joshimath. In September I saw a small crack in the floor. In December it widened and we left. out of the house,” Meera said.


Associated Press writer Sibi Arasu of Bengaluru, India, contributed to this report.


The Associated Press’s climate and environment coverage receives support from a number of private foundations. AP is solely responsible for all content.

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